Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I am always apprehensive about making plans for the new year because my mom was really nervous about Y2K and wrote in her journal on December 27,1999,"I wonder what the year 2000 holds for me." Then she died on January One,2000. BUT I feel very settled after several years of the same. Same house, cars,jobs, kids are adjusted.  All positives and a good foundation for doing some new things for me and our family.

2010 will forever be remembered as the year I started working out. It is definitely the biggest lifestyle change that took place in our home. And what a blessing exercising and eating healthy has been. I will hold myself accountable for going to the gym three times per week,lately I am lucky if I make it once. I will allow myself to substitute intentional outdoor fitness(ex: running, biking, swimming,yoga) for one of these gym visits.This year I want to explore fitness as stress relief. As I age I find that stress occurs less often but is more difficult to manage. I guess I got out of practice from all the aforementioned peace.  Also on the health front I need to drink as much water as Dr. Pepper. I was careful not to say drink less Dr. Pepper as that would be a miserable existence.

2011 is going to be the year I take on my finances head on. Hopefully Devin will finish his assigned reading and we can move forward in our journey to financial freedom. I intend to put a big dent in my student loan debt by generally spending more cautiously and applying savings to that.I just wanna plan better and spend "more purposefully" as my good friend Dave Ramsey would say. I also plan on increasing my income and putting those additional funds towards that debt.

There are several big events that I want to attend. I want to watch the Celtics play when they come to Texas in March. If there is a benefit in Dallas when the New Kids on the Block perform I would like to be there for that. Christy, Melissa and I had so much fun at the Susan G. Komen party in 2009.In October I want to take Cameron to see Taylor Swift to even things up since Carson got to see Shrek the Musical. And,let's be honest-I love me some Taylor Swift. This one is a stretch but I want to take our first big family vacation to Mexico and go zip lining. It won't be easy to save for this with everything else I have planned but it is certainly attainable.

I really want to start painting and I have put a tabletop easel in my amazon shopping cart a couple of times but never completed the transaction. In 2011 I WILL PAINT. I have this vision of all of us(Devin, Cameron, Carson and myself) painting the same still image and framing all the canvases in a square on the wall.  I think it would be neat to see each individual's interpretation of the same thing. Or each one of us painting one letter from H-I-L-L on an 8x10 canvas and hanging them all together. Like these parts make our whole. I don't know what fabulous artwork I will produce this year but I will make a masterpiece for shizzle.

I want to read more,blog more, and clean more. Guess I'll be sleeping less.

Ultimately none of this matters beyond increasing my day to day joy factor. I must for my own eternity and sanity improve my relationship with God. I do the occasional independent Bible study and pray at length every night before bed. I need to start praying and seeking him in the morning. I cannot think of a better way to bookend a day than with prayer.

I almost forgot to mention doing for others! Excuse me, I'm an only child. In all seriousness, I have initiated a small and private crusade with a few close friends that officially begins in January and I haven't been this excited about philanthropy since I served with the Salvation Army. Sometimes we have to stop trying to help everybody and actually help somebody. We all have a different ministry. If you can commit to calling an elderly friend just once a week, you could change their world. As far as big ticket giving, I want to participate in an Alzheimer's memory walk and raise funds for research on this toxic and underfunded disease.

Summary for my own reference and accountability
  • work out 3 times per week
  • pay down student loans
  • see Celtics play
  • take family vacation to Mexico
  • attend Taylor Swift concert
  • paint
  • habitual morning prayer
  • gesture giving, Memory Walk
Feel free to comment your goals for 2011, I would love to hear them!

Monday, November 22, 2010

money money money

I have been trying to be more responsible with my(did I say "my", I meant "our") money. We do okay and I know we should have more left over each month. Over the years I have read every personal finance book out there just because it interests me; I really haven't applied any of the practices to my saving/spending habits. That's not true-we do max out our 401Ks. I want more fun money. I would hate to think we couldn't take the vacation we wanted because I used it all on $5 pizzas. I am trying to be realistic and not go coupon crazy because I just don't see myself doing that long term so I am just editing my own habits. This is what I got so far:
  • Planning our menu-we have always planned for meals when making the grocery list but now I put them on a calendar and we are married to that menu. Even if I have to drive right by Little Caesar's on my way to the store to buy 1 ingredient, I don't stop like I would have 2 weeks ago. My weakness is eating out, but this change has not been painful at all.
  • We signed up for our banks "stash the cash". Our debit transactions are rounded up to the next dollar and the difference goes into our savings. I have wanted our bank to do this for a while but did not think it would ever happen because we don't use a national bank chain. Our bank is matching 10% through December 30!
  • I took 3 movies back to Hastings the next day and received a $2 credit for each one, usually I return them late and end up losing money.
  • I spent an entire evening online and on the phone with HP support to avoid paying for 1.a battery on a 8 month old laptop with factory warranty and extended warranty that has not even kicked in yet. 2.shipping an item they should have made correctly in the first place.I refused to let their problem become mine!I think I save about $60 in replacement costs for battery and $15 in shipping. BOO-YA.
  • I got Carson's Christmas gift on eBay for $135 with shipping which saved me about $30, if I can do the same with Cameron's that will be $60 in savings math wizards.
  • Today I took Cameron's ill sized jazz shoes back to Payless EVEN THOUGH she glued fabric to the box. You see she is doing this mini society thing at school and making decorated boxes to sell and she snatches up empty boxes whenever she sees them. Now she knew her shoes didn't fit so I guess 9 year olds don't exactly know what is required for an exchange at a retail store. So newly frugal, I removed the fabric and in some cases a layer of cardboard from the box and trotted my happy heiny in there and returned them anyway. I also took back the boots I bought because I couldn't just buy one pair during BOGO. The moral of the story is I got a $50 Payless gift card to buy the correct size shoes that I would have had to pay for out of pocket had I not swallowed my pride.
Next step is to research David Ramsey's envelope system for controlling spending. I also wanna consolidate my student loans so if anybody has advice or experience with that please share. I feel like my husband and I both do a good job of controlling what comes in, now I am committed to controlling what goes out.

What are you doing to stash some cash?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I should be driving a Tahoe

This coming Wednesday will be my 12 year truckiversary. Every year seems a little more special than the last. Red and I have seen a lot and done a lot since that fall day when my dad brought the beautiful Detroit machine home. I remember throwing a bratty fit  and making him take it back. I also remember having him take me back to get it 2 days later. It was 1998.  I was 17 and had driven my first car, a red 1965 Ford Mustang, for 14 months as a licensed driver. Mustang was a good car. She had lots of character.
No A/C, trunk wreaked of gas. Gas gage didn't work so I had to keep her full all the time. My favorite part was the mustang on the cassette player. My least favorite part was the visa grip that had replaced the original window roller. Shortly before I stopped driving my mustang a sophomore met me in the senior parking lot and insisted that I take him home. I objected but before I knew it, he had opened the door and gotten in. For the entirety of that 3 minuter car ride I struggled with telling him that the passenger door only opened from the outside. When we arrived at his home, I got out, walked around the car and let him out. I was such a gentleman. That kid's name was Devin.
Ultimately my parents convinced me that we needed something more reliable to take to college. It's a standard and we bought it the day before Thanksgiving. Dad took me backroading to get the hang of switching gears. I got so frustrated I told him to take it back. Again. Of course he didn't and the next day, stuck at my aunt's house and bored out of my teenage mind I decided that gorgeous red truck was my only way out. So I drove to Wal-mart to purchase some floor mats for red. I died about a hundred times at each stop light, but her transmission survived and we thrived together.Red, Angela and I were regular fixtures on the "drag".

My mom had a special love for red. She would always remind me of how pretty she was and how lucky I was to have her.That truck has been with me for every important event in my life aside from my birth. high school graduation, move to college, mom dies,move back home,start dating Devin, have Cameron, become pharmacy tech,get married,go to HPU for 1 year,separate from husband for 6 months, get back together with husband,move to San Angelo, move back, have Carson, go to CJC for year,Dad dies, switch jobs.
All she required from me over these 123,000 miles was a transmission and motor. Oh and I had to replace the windshield and drivers side window. When I was pregnant with Cameron, Les helped me remove my bucket seat and huge console and put in a bench seat so that the whole family could ride. Then Devin got a Bravada and put my bucket seats back in. Then when I found out Carson was coming, Dad confessed that he had burned my bench seat when he cleaned out the barn. So I bought a 75/25 to could accommodate both kids. In total my truck has housed 3 seats. It still has the tool box I received from my parents on my 18th birthday. It still has the Kenwood CD player I bought will my project graduation money. I started off with 2 seats and 4 cupholders. I lost 2 cupholders the day my dad found out I started smoking and ripped the ashtray/cupholder assembly from the dashboard. A light still shines through where that cupholder should be. The other 2 cup holders where in the console and thus are no more.

She has had her share of health scares.Someone drove right into the back bumper in 2004 when I was doing some work deliveries. I have backed her into Angela's convertible, some girl;s honda at a party, and a van. Devin wrecked her into some fencing on a back road. In 2000 another stupid boy drove it into a bar ditch inflicting the first imperfections into her paint job.I ran into the back of a van in 2008. She has never been to a body shop. Each scar is a story, a moment in our life together.
Unfortunately my kids have outgrown my truck and I am toying with the idea of adding a third vehicle to our household just to shuttle them around in when they have friends over but for now I will utilize Devin's truck as I have gone long enough without a car payment to know, I REALLY DON'T WANT A CAR PAYMENT.I would have paid about $28,000 in car payments if I had traded red in when she was paid off and that's assuming the car payment was $300 per month. 
 I am always offended when someone who I meet says,"why does Devin drive a new truck and you drive this?" Well my friends it is because Devin is not monogamous when it comes to vehicles and he does not become emotionally attached. I love love love my truck. I know all the other moms are driving sport utility vehicles and vans and late model cars. But I am not all the other moms. And this truck is special. And I will drive her until Devin can't fix her anymore.(There is really a tear in my eye right now, just imagining that day).Then where ever she dies, I will erect a museum around her in honor of our time together.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

a mom who works....

Okay. Here goes nothing. I am always thinking of things I want to blog but never following through. Today:I follow through.
We don't talk enough about the balancing act that is parenting and having a career. I am a first generation mom who works and therefore had no reference point as I began my journey. I have figured out so much on my own and through mentors along the way. I finally feel like I have advice to give.

Rule #1: You make the rules for your family. This is actually a recurring theme in my life that I have just recently began to own. Don't let society or the fear of parental failure guide your choices.
  • You decide how clean your house needs to be, within the guidelines of CPS of course.
  • You decide how many of the endless extracurricular activities your family can partake in.
  • You choose whether or not being a mom who works is right for you!
Rule #2: Read only if you have a parenting partner.Tell your spouse what you need. Devin and I have always shared responsibility for our families needs. He took his turn getting up with our babies when they were infants and has continued to contribute ever since. It should not be looked at as emasculating. Gender roles in the home are just another example of our generations progression. I have working friends whose spouses do nothing and they are always stressing trying to get everything done.Devin cooks, I clean.I get kids up in the morning and supervise homework. He does bedtime and makes sure they get there backpacks together. That doesn't mean I never cook or he never takes care of homework, but generally we stick to the routine.It's such comfort to know that if something were to happen, he could manage this household. That said:I manage the household at this point in our life together. I keep the schedule organized and make sure that bills get paid. This is what works for us.

Rule#3:Childcare is paramount. Finding a good daycare, nanny or babysitter is right up there with marrying the right person. If you can do your job without worrying about your child's safety and education, you are a more valuable employee. And nobody likes the mom who calls in because she doesn't have reliable childcare.I was fortunate enough to find a daycare I loved so much I bought a home across the street. Our owner/director has provided me with parental support that I cannot put a price on. She is willing to take and pick them up from activities, supervise homework, and drop them to me at work when I stay late, have had more than one teacher praise my daycare's achievements in preparing my kiddos for school. She gets them birthday gifts, takes them on out of town field trips and most importantly genuinely loves my kids. AND they love her.
I should point out that my kids don't go to daycare anymore because I get off when they get out of school which leads me to.......

Rule#4:A good job is more than paying the bills. I have worked in pharmacy for 9 years now and made some great contacts up to this point. I have proven my value and work for an employer who rewards good behavior. If you work for a decent company and pay your dues, your employer will accommodate your needs as a parent. Sometimes that means taking a long lunch to go to a school event or having your children at work with you. Don't call in when you are sick unless it's contagious-save those sick days for when the kids are sick. You can work with a cold. If you need to earn more money to pay childcare, don't tell your boss that. Tell them how awesome you are and how you deserve to be compensated for your time. Don't job hop! You have to establish a history with a company and have them invested in you as an employee before you can ask for flexibility.Plus we want to teach our children to be loyal and job hopping is not a symptom of loyalty.

Rule#5:Parenting is about quality not quantity. Time spent watching TV is not quality time. Reading a book or playing a game is. It's not even about making memories, it's about raising quality humans. Lately I have made tweaks to my own parenting style. My children have a ton of personality which is great, but also means they need alot of attention and stimulation. Because I work, my time at home must be divided between household duties and nurturing their needs. Plus (I'll be honest) having sometime to myself. But recently I began working on actually LISTENING when they talk. Don't judge me, we all do it. We tune them out sometimes;I mean when they are ALWAYS talking sometimes I go on autopilot and just nod to pacify them. I realized I was doing this because my kids were always telling me that I had agreed to do this or play that and I had no clue what they were talking about. So now I am making a point to engage with them unless what I am doing is so pressing that it cannot wait.

As a young mother I had a real problem with moms who DIDN"T work. Doesn't that sound terrible. I think it was because I was constantly being told by stay at home moms that they need to be home to bond with their child, keep house, run their kids around,etc.I choose to work but believe me the bond is there, the house is clean(enough), and my kids are involved in plenty of activities. My thinking has always been I GET ALL THAT DONE and work. So I guess I was defensive. I have outgrown that soap box and now understand that the women's movement was all about CHOICE. I now love a parent who can stay home, cook meals from scratch, have an immaculate house,prepare her tot for school, do the PTA,and volunteer at the school.That is my idea of what a stay at home mom should do.   I still get annoyed with the "I don't have to work" stay at home moms----Honey none of us HAVE to work.We could live on my husband's income.I work for lots of reasons. I like knowing that if something terrible happens and I am the sole provider, I could support my family. I work because I want my kids(primarily my daughter) to know that women can do anything they want to. I work because I stink at cooking and cleaning. My work is mine. It's is something I achieve everyday and that I take pride in. I am a mom who works,not a working mom. The "mom" comes before the "work". As I approach the midpoint of my parenting life I am really embracing my role as parent. My work has always come easily to me, PARENTING now that's a challenge.....